How To: Understand Financial Aid

The deadline to apply for FAFSA is different depending on what state you live in. Check out this website to find out when your financial aid application is due:


For Californians, March 2nd has already passed, but the search and the headache are still not finished. I was the first in my family to attend college in the United States, and I was completely lost. When you receive your letter that explains what kind of financial aid each university is offering you – breathe deeply. You are not alone and you can take your time.


Take advantage of all forms of financial aid

Grants and scholarships are money that give to you by the government, your university, organizations, corporations, etc. This money is not a loan, and you won’t have to pay it back. Some scholarships have conditions, such as how you can spend the funds or if the institution pays the money directly to the university. You will not see the money, but at the same time you will not see the college account from which you are covering the scholarship. Many scholarships also require you to have a grade point average in high school or college. Grants are similar to scholarships, but the big difference is that scholarships are usually gifted based on a talent, essay, or your academic average and grants are given based on your financial need.


Work Study

Work study is a federal program in which the government gives you an amount of money, but you have to earn it by working. It is not guaranteed money, and you will have to find a job that accepts work study. The good news is employers will want to hire you because a portion of your paycheck comes from the government, and your job doesn’t pay your full check. Take that into account when looking for a job and do not look for a job that does not fit you. While under work study, remember that you are a student before a worker. You can not be fired or get in trouble if you have to miss work for a class, an exam, or homework.



The most horrible word for a college student: loans. There are four types of loans; Subsidized loans do not acquire interest while you are in school. The second type are loans that are not subsidized. They are still good because you don’t have to pay until you graduate, but they acquire low interest. Then you have the loans for your parents. These loans are based on what the college thinks your parents can help you financially. You do not have to take them as soon as they are offered to you. If you need them in the future, they will be there. Take into account that six months after taking these loans, your parents will have to start paying them. The most horrendous loans are private loans. You bring a copy of what the university offered you to the bank and they offer you the difference. This is a private loan based on your and your parents’ credit. The interest of these loans vary, but they add up. Do not take them if you do not need them.


Remember – breathe! It’s a lot of information, but you can always talk to your counselor. Fill out all the paperwork, and do not be intimidated. It is your future and it is completely normal to feel a little overwhelmed.



Want more tips on school and finance?

How To: Take Out a School Loan

How To: Write a Senior Thesis

How To: Start a 401(k) With Your Employer

How To: Start, Keep, and Protect Good Credit

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